Australia’s government has unveiled six proposed offshore regions that have world-class offshore wind energy potential.

Public consultation on the proposed Bass Strait offshore Gippsland area will begin immediately, as recently installed Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s government works with communities, environmental groups, industry and the maritime sector to ensure communities are appropriately engaged in establishing this new industry.

The other regions that have been earmarked are the Pacific Ocean regions offshore the Hunter and the Illawarra in New South Wales, the Southern Ocean region offshore Portland in Victoria, the Bass Strait region offshore Northern Tasmania, and the Indian Ocean region offshore Perth/Bunbury in Western Australia.

Unveiling the acreage on Friday, the government said that details regarding these five other regions and the public consultation processes would be announced in due course.

Good to excellent offshore wind locations exist at strategic locations, noted the Australian government. These include sites with existing energy generation facilities and industrial hubs with strong connections to existing transmission networks, near major export ports and near industrial hubs where the transmission grid is the strongest.

Estimates for the job opportunities of an offshore wind industry in Australia range from 3000 to 8000 jobs annually. Where offshore wind has been established in other countries, the main pathways into the industry have been from the energy sector and existing offshore industries.

Federal Climate Change & Energy Minister Chris Bowen for years has been fighting to unlock Australia’s offshore wind capacity.

“We have some of the best wind resources in the world — just one rotation of one offshore wind turbine provides as much energy as an average rooftop solar installation generates in one day,” said Bowen.

“This new industry will provide opportunities to reduce emissions and fast-track job and economic development opportunities for regional Australia particularly in clean energy generation and manufacturing.

“Many other countries have been successfully harvesting offshore wind energy for years, and now is the time for Australia to start the journey to firmly establish this reliable and significant form of renewable energy,” he added.

The Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment & Water will facilitate the consultation process in the proposed regions.

The consultation process will be an opportunity for all stakeholders with interests in the proposed areas to provide feedback.

Star of the South

Tony Wolfe, a senior operator at one of the Loy Yang coal power stations in Victoria’s Latrobe Valley and a member of the community advisory board for the Star of the South offshore wind farm, said: “It’s about bloody time that a Federal Government has shown leadership and taken the next step in realising the job creation, power generation and economic potential of offshore wind in Australia.

“It's a welcome relief for people in Gippsland because successive Federal Governments have always been promised that the Gippsland region in Victoria would be the first region in line.

“The major Star of the South offshore wind project, planned for just off the Gippsland coast, is the most advanced and I look forward to work continuing to make it a reality,” said Wolfe.

'Far more nuanced'

However, whether offshore wind will prove to be an optimum commercial renewable energy source Down Under remains to be seen, according to Tim Buckley, director of Climate Energy Finance.

“Offshore wind is a key decarbonisation solution for the world, installations globally are expected to increase 10-fold in the next few years. While its importance in Australia is far more nuanced because Australia is blessed with great onshore wind and solar resources, which are cheaper to develop,” Buckley commented.

“We need to weigh up the additional costs related to offshore wind construction and see where it makes the most economic sense.”

Buckley said that Bowen is right to open offshore wind for public consultation.

“Offshore wind development is going to need a high degree of policy support and forward planning because of the complex supply chains that would have to be developed in Australia and higher costs of construction. We need to value the balancing or baseload nature of the generation, to support the sometimes intermittent nature of onshore wind and solar.

“It’s really important that developing offshore wind is a combined Federal and state initiative because no one state can justify the supply chain investment alone.”